Your cover letter is your first and often only chance to impress a prospective employer. Employers see cover letters before resumes, and if your cover letter isn't a page-turner, your resume may never have a chance to impress. Fortunately, there is an easy way you can write a killer cover letter that will impress your employer and help you stand out from the crowd. Here are some important steps you need to follow when writing a cover letter.
- Do Your Homework
A generic letter works fine if you're sending out a lot of resumes in a given field, such as applying to be a server in a restaurant. Even so, you should know something about the company. Even if the best you can say is "I really enjoy your pecan pie" or "Your dental office is the highest-rated in the Boston area," that shows you did your due diligence and know something about the company.
- Make It Personal
No one likes receiving generic letters addressed "To Whom It Concerns." This is where your research comes in. Who's making the hiring decisions? How should they be addressed? If your cover letter is addressed to Professor Ted Smith and he prefers Dr. Theodore Smith, your cover letter is likely to be passed over. Doing this also shows you took the time and effort to find out who you were dealing with.
- Spelling and Grammar Do Matter
Even if your cover letter is well-formatted, it won't matter if your letter reads as if it were written by a sixth-grader. Use a dictionary if you need to, and it's usually a good idea to assume you need to. Never trust spell-check. If you have friends who are particularly good at writing, ask them to look over your cover letter and edit it. Reading your cover letter backwards is a good way for you to check for grammar and word usage.
- Don't Be Cute
Whatever you do, don't use hard-to-read fonts or your favorite Duck Dynasty stationery for your cover letter. Keep it simple and clear by following this checklist:
- Use plain white paper
- Use a clear font like Times New Roman in 12pt font
- Keep your headings consistent and simple, such as "Education"
Simple and direct is best for impressing an employer. You can show off your unique personality after you've secured the job.
- Keep It Simple
Two or three paragraphs is usually enough for a cover letter. Paragraph one should introduce you and your experience. Paragraph two tells what you bring to the table for a specific employer. The last paragraph tells why you and this particular company are a good fit. Cover letters should never be two pages. They are introductions to draw recruiters and managers interest, not novels.
- Don't Overthink It
Most people overthink their cover letters or don’t put in enough effort. Be confident but not arrogant, and be humble without coming off as a timid. You want to convince this employer that out of dozens of applicants, you're the one they want. Trying too hard is worse than not trying hard enough.